Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bye bye Africa

June 26th-29th
I’m just smooshing these three days together. We ate lunch on the way back to a village right outside of Arusha where I met a lady who is building an orphange, she gave me her name and email so we can keep in touch. At lunch Simon, one of our guides is Masai and gave me a Masai name, Nashipa, which means happy or the happy one. Fits perfectly!
We drove on to Arusha and pulled up to the gates of the United African Alliance Community Center, founded by Pete and Charlotte O’Neal, two Black Panthers who fled the country in the late 60s.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when it came to them and their attitudes toward different races but they were the MOST welcoming people. Pete started the Black Panther Party chapter in Kansas City where he was convicted of bringing a gun across state lines, although he didn’t. Instead of spending undeserved time in jail, he left with his wife to Algeria where they stayed for two years and then moved onto Tanzania and have been here ever since. Pete has said many times that he will never be completely culturally assimilated. I adore the people here and the simple way of life, but I can’t even imagine staying here for the rest of my life. A year or two maybe, but not over thirty years. The projects they have started, including the school and water project that supplies water to the village is inspiring and they are two highly intellectual individuals who deserve so much respect.
Over the past three days I have spent much of my time with the orphans who live here at UAACC in the orphange. Two boys specifically, Selem and Felix. They are the sweetest, most precious boys. Last night Selem fell asleep on my lap, snoring loudly while Felix played with my hair, traced the outline of my eyes and nose, and kissed my hand until he fell asleep as well. Leaving those two will be heartbreaking but compared to most of the children in these villages, have a great life.
The second day we learned a traditional dance. They know how to shake their hips so well and watching all of us try to move it like that was hilarious. We eventually performed for the center and some of the locals who wandered in to hear the beat of the drums.
We had a party last night and presented our On Assignment Projects to all of UAACC- the students, the O’Neals and the orphans. Mine was about females in Tanzanian society. After the presentations, we had a dance party and worked on light painting pictures. They all turned out so, so cool! The amount I have learned about photography over these three weeks has surpassed anything I have learned in the past.
So I leave today and while I miss my friends and family so much, I really am sad to be leaving. Erin and Peter have been amazing leaders and all of the kids on the trip have gotten really close, but I love the people here and the children have seriously taken over my heart! I know it sounds ridiculous but it is so true. I know now how AMAZING my life is and how much I have to give to people like those that live here. I know I will come back eventually and I can’t wait for that. But in the mean time here are some things I have learned:

Warm water is a wonderful thing, but cold showers wake you up so much faster and conserve a lot of water, so it is actually better to have frigid water.

Poop. I have learned so much about poop. That is really I have to say about that subject.

As far as food goes, I only need a small portion to be okay.

If I live frugally, or more than I have been, then I can save up to travel more and give more money to people who live in areas such as this. The people here live off of one dollar per day, Per family.

I’m sure I sound like a hippy to everyone reading this blog which is fine since I’m sitting here in tie dye pants and Chacos writing this blog, but I have learned to appreciate the city life... I love getting dressed up to go out with my friends and going downtown to concerts.

Most of all though I have learned to be more balanced in life. To relax more. To let it be. And it is fine to love the city life and pursue those dreams I have of living in New York City and writing for Women’s Health (I will actually most likely have to live in Jersey and commute since I won’t have any money), but also pursue those dreams of traveling and helping others who are so much less fortunate than I am.

I have just finished packing and left a big pile for the kids here. I don’t want to say goodbye but I suppose it’s time! Oh! I have also figured out I am going to try to double major in journalism AND photography. Bye-bye Africa, Athens here I come!

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